Gonzaga University’s law school and the social work program at Eastern Washington University have joined forces to offer a new four-year dual degree.
Now students can graduate with a law degree and a master’s in social work through a program that shaves a year off the time it would take to do both independently.
Up to 16 students will be admitted in the next four years for the Dual JD/MSW Degree program. The program includes summer sessions. Students with an undergraduate degree in social work may qualify for advanced standing in the program, which would allow them to finish the dual degree in three years.
“It will be a major commitment for students,” said Michael Frumkin, EWU’s social work and human services dean.
About 25 similar programs exist around the country, Frumkin said. It took about 18 months to finalize the program once both institutions agreed it should be offered.
Word of the dual degree is just now getting out. Already, there have been phone calls of interest, Frumkin said.
To be admitted, students need to qualify for admission into both programs separately.
“We’re going to spend a lot of time working with these applicants,” Frumkin said. “We really want them to succeed.”
Social workers and lawyers often work closely in areas of human need, but the fields tend to operate separately. This program is designed to create workers who can span that gap.
Kasey Kramer, director of community services for Spokane County, said he expects people will flock to the dual program. Kramer offered some consultation early on with the program and believes the new graduates will be able to make a tremendous impact.
“The nature of the job (in social services) is all about relationships,” Kramer said. “This degree takes from the get-go the attitude that these interdependent relationships are critical in order to get things done.”
Kramer said the joint degree will produce students with real-life experience who understand how the systems work together legally.
“That’s like gold for us,” Kramer said.
George Critchlow, interim dean of Gonzaga’s School of Law, said in a Gonzaga press release that the joint program will further benefit the work done by the school’s clinical law program, which often addresses family law issues relating to child safety, as well as elderly and disabled issues.
“We’re looking to create some clinical learning opportunities that put students into situations where they can explore the legal ramifications of working with these populations and also get some good social work experience,” Critchlow said in the release.
Cross-training students will help address many unmet needs, he said. Now students torn between careers in professional social work and law won’t be forced to choose one over the other, Critchlow said.